Chapter 19: Playing the LAG

The LAG (loose aggressive) player is a tough one.  Playing a lot of hands and playing them aggressively, these players will put you in a lot of tough situations.  Some of the very best players and biggest winners fall under the LAG category; however, to play this style requires amazing hand reading skills and a great feel for the game.  Most of the LAGs you face will be breakeven or losing players, trying too hard to win every pot by bluffing every hand or by calling with any pair.  However, they will constantly challenge you with bets and raises that will leave you lost and confused.

The stats of the LAG

PFR:  A glaring characteristic of the LAG is a high PFR.  Any two decent cards are worth a raise for a LAG.  The lower end of a LAG will be raising 22% but can be upwards of 35%.  Any higher and your opponent is no longer a LAG, he’s a maniac.       VPIP:  How close a LAG’s VPIP is to his PFR will vary widely.  The good LAGs will have a close VPIP to PFR correlation and will be on the lower end of about 30/25.  The VPIP can be over 50, though this player will be on the borderline of an aggressive fish.  Rely on PFR numbers to identify a LAG.           

AF:  A LAG’s AF will always be high.

ASB:  This number will probably be 35% or higher.  They’ll be raising bad hands such as T4s and K3o.  You can start 3-betting these LAGs when they raise the CO or button more than you would a TAG.  Be careful, however, since many LAGs will call your 3-bets and put you in tough spots postflop.  If you 3-bet their LP open, be prepared to go all-in with a wider range of hands than you would against a TAG or a fish.

WTSD:  This number won’t be very reliable for LAGs.  Since they are doing the betting, there’s a good chance they’ll be making a lot of people fold before the river and won’t see many showdowns.

FSB, FBB:  If a LAG has a high FSB/FBB (let’s say over 80 on FBB) chances are he’s a decent player and is playing most of his hands aggressively in position.  The lower the number, the more likely he is to defend his blinds.  Against these kind of guys, you might want to tighten up your button opening range, especially if they are prone to 3-bet you or check-raise your continuation bets. 

Fold to continuation bet:  If a LAG folds to a low number of continuation bets, chances are he is playing back at a lot of flops with raises or calling a lot of flops planning to take the pot away on the turn.  If this number is below 60%, keep it in mind that your continuation bets will not be as effective.  You have to adjust your game by betting the turn more when he just calls the flop, by calling more marginal hands against his flop raises, or by not continuation betting as much.

Other characteristics of a LAG

LAGs are aggressive, preflop and postflop.  But how are they aggressive?

Preflop.  LAGs open a lot of pots.  Most of them 3-bet a ton as well.  Against LAGs, you can open up[1] your calling range when a LAG 3-bets you.  I’d recommend using position as the main factor in calling a 3-bet from a LAG.

Postflop.  LAGs will throw a bunch of raises and check-raises your way.  You’ll have to adjust by putting your stack on the line with more marginal hands than you’re used to.  It’s important to note that many of these LAGs are simply bluffing too much.  They just can’t make a hand that much for how often they’re betting and raising.  Take this into account and pick off their bluffs.

How to play and exploit a LAG

Generalizing how to play against LAGs is tough because of the many varieties they come in.  Their postflop play is going to be much different from LAG to LAG than postflop play will be from TAG to TAG.

Some LAGs are big bluffers postflop.  They’ll pick up on any weakness and bet to take the pot.  They’ll continue big bluffs even when you’re calling down and your actions state you have a good hand.  Some LAGs are actually tight postflop when it comes to making big bluffs.  You’ll have to analyze aggression factors for these kind of spots, but again, be forewarned: you need a few hundred hands for AF to mean anything.  In the meantime, notice their postflop play by reviewing their hole cards at showdown.

Since LAGs are more aggressive, we will be calling their bets and raises more.  The most important time to do this is when you show weakness or when your actions state you usually don’t have a hand.

Inducing bluffs with strong hands.  Since LAGs love to pounce on weakness, you should start checking medium and top-strength hands to them in spots where you expect them to bluff.  Do this in spots where your LAG opponent is likely to think you don’t have a hand and thus he believes he move you off of your hand.  Do this in a spot where your LAG opponent is likely to think you have an OK hand that can’t stand a big bet.  A common scenario is when you raise a hand like AcAd on the CO.  The button, a LAG who likes to call your raises preflop, calls.  You’re heads up to a flop of 7h5d2c.  You bet almost the pot and the LAG calls.  The turn is the 5h.  Now it’s best to check and induce some bluffs.  The LAGs calling range was wide for the flop.  He could have overcards, any seven, any pocket pair or a straight draw.  He could also have a slowplayed set or trips, but we’re willing to take that chance.  Since he can put us on many hands such as AK that are folding the turn, he’s going to bet.  But if we bet, he will fold most of the hands we beat.  Whether to check-raise or call if he bets is another story, but as long as you don’t fold anywhere in the hand you’re doing OK.

Inducing bluffs with weak hands.  In the last example, we put the LAG on a very wide range for calling the flop.  While the CO/Button situation is one of the more extreme spots for a LAG to call the flop with nearly anything, there are going to be many spots where you can’t give up a weak hand, such as middle or bottom pair, to a LAG when it’s just too likely he’s bluffing.  An example is having 66 in the previous example.  It would be worth a check-call on the turn.  You simply have the best hand too much to fold.  A river decision with this type of hand can be extremely difficult if the LAG bets and your decision would depend on how aggressive the LAG is, how much he bet and what the river card is.

Semibluffing them moreSince the LAGs usually won’t have a hand good enough to be betting and raising, we should be semibluffing (described in Chapter 28) them more.  When they make flop raises, be more apt to push with your good draws (any flush draw or 8-out straight draw[2]).  When you bet a good draw on the flop and a LAG calls, be more apt to check-raise them all-in on the turn.  What I mean by this is to check your hand on the turn and induce a bet from your LAG opponent, who can call the flop with many weak hands that he will now bet on the turn and thus you can go all-in as a semibluff and win the pot much of the time with your LAG opponent folding.  For example, let’s say we have Td9d on the CO and raise to $12 at a $2/$4 game.  A very aggressive opponent we have pegged as a LAG calls on the button.  The blinds fold.  The flop is 8d2s4h.  We bet $24 into the $30 pot and the LAG calls.  The turn is the 7s.  We should check, let the LAG bet, and then go all-in.  On that flop, the LAG can call many hands, such as ace-high, king high, A4, A2, or even some weaker hands.  Thus, by checking to him on the turn we let him bet.  Take advantage of the fact the LAG’s hand range is wide enough that you can shove in a good draw and he will fold a decent amount of the time: he simply won’t have a hand good enough to call you and if he does, you have a decent chance to win the pot.

Giving them credit for a hand.  It’s always important to remember that sometimes LAGs have hands.  Sometimes they have big hands that they play in the exact same manner as when they bluff.  In those spots, we must chalk it up to bad luck and continue on.  However, sometimes they play a hand in a way that is typical of a big hand and we must give them credit for a big hand.  Just because someone is a LAG, we can’t start calling them down with any pair in any situation.  You must use your skills of hand reading and table dynamics, combined with your experience, to understand when a LAG takes a line where it’s much more likely he has a hand than when it’s much more likely he has a bluff.  The one guideline I will reinforce is to generally continue with the hand against a LAG when you’ve shown weakness[3].

What is tough about playing a LAG is sometimes you’re going to lose to a big hand of theirs.  It can shake your confidence about calling down lightly against these guys but it must be done against your more aggressive opponents.  Some LAGs do very well by making TAGs fold many of their hands.

It’s a fine balance, however, and it can be easy to spew your chip by calling down LAGs in bad spots.  There are a million spots and a million situations where you will be faced with a tough spot against a LAG.  You must use all the concepts presented in this book in addition to understanding the LAG to know what to do.

[1] To open up means to have a wider range of hands in a spot than you normally would.

[2] Having a straight draw that can be made by eight cards.  For example, having  JT on a 982 board.  There are four Qs and four 7s that can make your straight.

[3] When you’ve played your hand in a manner that indicates your hand is weak.


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09. August 2012 by Skilled Online Poker
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